Wet Hair interview

We recently got a chance to chat with Wet Hair and Shawn Reed, creator of Night People Records.

s.o.t.r-After disbanding Raccoo-oo-on in 2008, what made you two decide to form Wet Hair? Was there any hesitation about starting a new group together? Did you ever consider just recording another album under Racoo-oo-on or did you feel that the new sound deserved a new outlook/name?

Shawn- Raccoo-oo-oon slowly wound down in 2007 with our final album coming out in 2008. Andy Spore and Daren Ho had decided to move out of Iowa City for opposite coasts in pursuit of other life goals etc. so that was the main reason the band disbanded but overall it seemed like time to disband in pursuit of other musical outlets. We had accomplished alot of what we felt like we could with the band and that aesthetic. It had been a full experience for all of us something we had put alot of time in effort into. We went on some really disastrous tours together early on but got through that period to do many more including a couple European tours before we called it quits. It was very formative for all of us and we have all stayed very close because of the bonds that time period created.  Wet Hair started out as a solo project for me around the time Raccoo-oo-oon ended I released a cassette and a 12″. Ryan ended up  joining pretty early on because I didn’t enjoy doing it as a solo thing and since we were both still in the area and both looking to continue to pursue music and touring it just made sense. Ryan records solo and makes some great music on his own, but in terms of performing live and touring its just much more engaging and fun to do it with someone else.  We have been playing music and making art together and around each other for so long it just made sense to keep pushing things and we work well together and really progress individually from collaboration. It did however take some time for us to fully figure out what direction to go in with Wet Hair and I feel like that direction was most fully realized on our new album In Vogue Spirit.

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s.o.t.r-In past interviews you guys have discussed your improvisational style when it comes to creating music, which is wonderfully seen through the non-linear paths of songs like “Echo Lady.” Even though your songs have more of a freeform to them, they still maintain a good structure making it seem like the improvisational is a delicate and thought of process. Basically how do you two approach Wet Hair’s creative process?
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Ryan- It usually starts with someone playing a part or having a general idea to work from and grows organically from there. Though I think we are usually pretty critical of where a song is going, or try to be conscious of not wanting to take the exact same approach to a song structure every time. Maybe it’s an organic growth shaped more by what we know we don’t want to do than knowing what we do want a song to do, figure out what things we don’t want the song to do and then sort of let it happen from there. I wouldn’t exactly say we’re really that improvisational anymore, it’s more of a looseness, or a little flexibility in the songs, which might come more from a general and historical aversion to precision in the music we’ve played. At least for Shawn and I, I can’t speak totally for Matt (helped write and played bass on In Vogue Spirit) when he was with us or Justin now (current Wet Hair bass player), but transitions might happen more from eye contact and intuition that counting things out.
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s.o.t.r-Wet Hair’s sound has been compared to that of Krautrock, which was also a term used a lot in describing Racoo-oo-on. What would you say some of your two’s biggest musical or artistic influences where growing up and now?
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Shawn- For me growing up punk and hardcore was what really got me interested in music and through that I got into a wider variety of bands. I had always had a visual art background but it wasn’t until I hit my teen years that I really saw music as something I could be involved with and also connect to visual art.  I saw the DIY movement as a way to connect on my own creativity with a larger world then the one I felt like I was in. I grew up living in a small industrial Missississippi river town in Iowa. After highschool I went to the University of Northern Iowa where I ended up meeting Ryan and many other formative people in my life. Although largely unknown  UNI has a really good program and was very formative for my experience artistically. While there I was turned onto bands and musicians that would really guide my artistic direction from then on such as Crass, Can, Throbbing Gristle, Sun Ra, Miles Davis, The Sun City Girls, Suicide, John Cage, Terry Riley, The Velvet Underground, Joy Division, PIL, Wire etc.  At that time we were involved with a prominent local DIY venue our friends ran and I ended up starting to book a lot of shows and started to make connections nationally with the artwork I was making as well. I feel like since my time in early art school the development artistically and musically has just been a continuation of the primary ideas I started to think about when I was 19 or 20 of finding ways to make music and art sustainable in every day life. The influences haven’t changed that much either, they just get wider and deeper and at this point they are so wide and deep it would be hard to pin them down at all.
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Ryan- Kind of like Shawn said, growing up for me most of my main influence was the local (Iowa in general) music scene and the people within it. It had a big impact on showing music as a lifestyle beyond just high school interest, it laid out a kind of direction to start going, it’s also how i met Shawn and started playing with him, etc.
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s.o.t.r-Tell us about your label Night People? How is the balance of running a label and also being in a band? Do you find having the perspective of a musician helps at all when dealing with artists on your own label?
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Shawn- Most of the musicians I work with on Night-People I know personally in some way, touring has largely created the connections it took to make Night-People happen and function, I have met hundreds  of people on tour and we have toured a great deal over the years playing small DIY shows so its easy to get to known people and what they are also working on and thus its nice to have a bit more of a face to face connection or friendship between the label and the artists I work with. Wet Hair and Night-People go together pretty well, its nice to take extra label merch on tour and have them be creative outlets that benefit each other. I think the experience of touring has given me a good perspective into the reality of the music industry in terms of seperating  media attention  from the actual effect on the ground traveling from town to town. I see alot of gigs too which helps make decisions about what I like and don’t like.  With that experience of going on tour over and over again, having things sort of fade in and out in terms of attention, scene’s changing, time going by etc, I think it has given me the perspective to simply stick with it and to try and not compromise anything about what we want to do musically or artisticly with the band or the label, and just do what we do and hope some people find value in it and allow us the opportunities to keep doing what we have been doing. At the same time we have been through enough disaster tours, bad shows, lack of local interest and times of low financial situations that we know we can survive about anything and I think that has also created a resolve and determination of its own.  Its always about pushing forward never resting on anything constantly trying to find new creative directions letting the inward fuel what we do outwardly. I don’t want to follow in any footsteps really with the label, I’m not looking to cash in on anything or follow any hype, I just want to put out new and interesting music with a unique visual aesthetic supplied by the label and focus on that.
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s.o.t.r-In Vogue Spirit has been garnering a lot of positive reviews on the blogosphere, especially noting Wet Hair’s more mature sound. How would you say the last few years since the disbanding of Racoo-oo-on has changed you musically and personally? Would you agree with the assessment of a “more mature sound” or is it just music critics trying to pinhole things down?
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Ryan- Even during the course of Raccoo oo oon the sound was pretty consistently changing and developing, i think for that band and for Wet Hair the idea was never to find one avenue and stick with it, but to do something that could shift focus and incorporate the growth that naturally occurs over time. That said in some ways with any band there are going to be limitations or walls that you run in to. When we started doing Wet Hair we were probably more ready to let ourselves calm down, write somewhat more traditional songs, reign in the chaos. I hope that it comes across more as showing growth over the years than  whether it sounds mature, or anything people want to say about it like that.
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Shawn- I agree that its more about growth or experience. We had an interest in the process of experimentation we didn’t want to make things easy for ourselves at any point because it felt boring or predictable and maybe not as personally fulfilling. I feel like we covered alot of ground and thus came back to a point of wanting to explore other ways of creating which lead to more melody driven material and through that process came to where we are now.  I’ve tried to develop my voice more, my ear for melody etc its challenging to write material that can’t be pined down and really thats the goal to try and discover something with the music or art through the process of creating it to keep entertaining ourselves while trying to gain more audience from better creation.  I think we have the process in mind and seek to evolve rather then simply sticky with one formula.
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s.o.t.r-What are Wet Hair’s plans for the rest of 2011 and going into 2012?
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Shawn- Right around the time In Vogue Spirit came out we were scheduled to go on a full West Coast tour that took us through Texas and the Midwest starting out with Broken Water and then continuing through til the end with Rene Hell. We had just got done with a quick east coast tour booked around an art exhibition in Montreal with Seri Pop and soon after we got home I ended up injuring my knee pretty seriously in one of my weekly soccer scrimmages. I ended up in surgery so we missed the whole tour. In the downtime since the recovery is taking a few months, we are working on new material for a distant full length, making new visual art, and trying to enjoy the summer. We got invited to play some festival dates in Australia in September and we have been booking extra shows for that trip and trying to figure out the logistics. I’ve been trying to work on an Australian tour for a few years so  we are really excited to go. We have many friends there and the wealth of good bands right now in Australia is really great  so its exciting to get to do a tour in a place we never have before.   Hopefully in 2012 we can finish up another record, tour Europe if we get invited to and make up the West Coast tour we had to ditch out on.
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Buy In Vogue Spirit HERE.
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Interview by: Stephanie Glass
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